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The Real-Life Castaways: True Stories Of Survival On A Deserted Island


Man can live about forty days without food,

about three days without water, about eight minutes without air,

but only for one second without hope.

Charles Darwin

There are numerous stories of individuals who have found themselves totally alone – cut off from the rest of humankind – marooned in isolation, either by chance or by choice. However, this kind of aloneness in no way equals a death sentence for those who find themselves in it. Amazingly, few people have survived to tell harrowing tales of castaways, and many of their stories make it to the big screen.

From an Scottish sailor who became inspiration for famous novel ‘Robinson Crusoe’ to New Zealander who  spent 16 years on Suwarrow Island in full isolation these are the most impressive stories of survival on deserted islands.

1  – Alexander Selkirk

Duration of Survival – 4 years 4 months

Incredible Real life Castaways: True Stories of Survival on a Deserted IslandAlexander Selkirk (Robinson Crusoe)

Alexander Selkirk was a was a Scottish sailor who spent 4 years as a castaway. He was the inspiration behind the famous novels Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver’s Travels. Apparently the captain of his crew conspired against him and left him on an isolated island. He lived on Oysters, Shellfish, and anything he could catch until he was finally rescued in 1709.

2 – Douglas Robertson & Family

Duration of Survival – 38 Days

Incredible Real life Castaways: True Stories of Survival on a Deserted IslandDouglas Robertson & Family

Douglas Robertson was an experienced sailor from Scotland. He bought a private boat to sail with his family that included his wife, daughter, son, and twin sons. In an unfortunate attack by the pod of killer whales, their boat sunk somewhere between the Galapagos Island and Panama.

But they managed to survive on turtles and fish until a Japanese fishing trawler rescued them.

3 – Gerald Kingsland & Lucy Irvine

Duration of Survival – 1 Year

Incredible Real life Castaways: True Stories of Survival on a Deserted IslandLucy Irvine

Gerald and Lucy are the self-imposed castaways as they planned to survive on a no man’s land. The British writer and adventurer, Gerald Kingsland, put an ad in the Time Out Magazine, to look for a female companion who could join him on the deserted island. Lucy Irvine, 24, joined him to the Tuin Island in Torres, between Papua New Guinea and Australia.

They lived there for a year fighting their way through water scarcity, until the Badu Islanders rescued them. Lucy Irvine wrote her account of experience and published it as Castaway in 1983. Robert Zemicks took inspiration from this book for his blockbuster movie.

4 – Tom Neale

Duration of Survival – 16 Years

Incredible Real life Castaways: True Stories of Survival on a Deserted IslandTom Neale

Tom Neale was a New Zealander who is also the author of his famous autobiography ‘An Island to Oneself’. He spent 16 years in three sessions, on Suwarrow Island in the Cook Islands. First time, Neale took a ship passing by Suwarrow along with his cats, books, and water tank. After a serious back injury, he returned back home only to come back again the second and third time. But unfortunately after his third visit to the Suwarrow, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer and died.

5 – Ernest Shackleton & Crew

Duration of Survival – 105 Days

Incredible Real life Castaways: True Stories of Survival on a Deserted IslandErnest Shackleton & Crew

The famous explorer, Ernest Shackleton was stranded along with his crew in Antarctic, where they lived on top of floating ice and survive on seals. Only when six men from his crew set their journey across the ocean and glaciers to find help, they finally got some people to rescue everyone.

6 – Juana Maria

Duration of Survival – 18 years

Incredible Real life Castaways: True Stories of Survival on a Deserted IslandJuana Maria monument

Juana Maria was the last survivor of San Nicholas Island when Russian Otter killers invaded and massacred almost all of the people dwelling there. She lived in a hut made of whale bones and survived on seals for 18 years. But, after coming back to the main land, she caught dysentery and died.

7 – Ada Blackjack

Duration of Survival – 2 Years

Incredible Real life Castaways: True Stories of Survival on a Deserted IslandAda Blackjack

Ada Blackjack joined a team of explorers who were set to claim Wrangle Island for Canada. But 3 crew members left her stranded in the northern Siberia where she managed to survive for 2 years.


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